Rank on rank the host of heavenSupper will be late tonight.
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of Light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.
I've got my stiletto boots on, and my dark green silk Valentino and I'll keep my black wool coat on throughout the service tonight, because it's been a little over two years since the church was warm. I've got around seventeen bobby pins holding the usual braided knot in place because the wisps began to escape early because the boys are always touching my hair, holding my head for a kiss or a hug, stroking a cheek or an ear, dunking me upside down in the snowdrifts. The usual.
I'll climb the steps of the church and go inside, clutching Ben's hand with both of mine, spinning his rings, Lochlan not far behind to catch the princess and help her find her balance. The stares will be unavoidable. Half of this congregation hates me and the other half wants to be me. Equal feverish hopes unspoken in which they wish to alternately spend a moment or two in my six-inch heels or burn me at the stake, laughing all the while. I'm not oblivious, I just pretend. It's been this way since I left Cole.
Ben is going to pry my hands from his just after Sam gives him the nod and he will advance to the front of the sanctuary and sing Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence while people finish filing in and get settled, their eyes taking my inventory. Judging me. Judging us.
The children appear to be well-dressed, neat and content.
Yes, all of the boys are here too. What goes on in that giant black house with the white gingerbread anyway?
He doesn't SEEM all that frightening right now.
She does. It's always the ones you don't expect.
I've been grinding my teeth alot lately, but I did my dutiful Christmas preparations. Everything is wrapped and most of it hidden away in a little-used room in the basement. The tree is decorated and lit. I left it plugged in. Dinner will be a casserole that will bake slowly while we are out tonight and the sparkling water is chilling in the refrigerator door. We leave the Christmas lights on in the porch around the clock and the children will work on the gingerbread house later on when we get home from the service.
I have cookies, groceries, and a new cake from the bakery. The sidewalks, walkways and driveway are shoveled. It's done. I'm ready, just as soon as I walk the gauntlet of churchgoers and hypocrites, who smile to my face while they're thrusting knives into my back, jealous of God only knows what, but loathe to admit it. Hateful because of their envy.
They should not envy me.
Satan hovers close, a malevolent satellite keeping things calm, far more frightening than Benjamin could ever be. Ben is a lion who can be tamed with a lip balm, a set of headphones and a Big Mac. Caleb's appetites see no end, he's the moebius man, content to hide his deadly fetishes behind his generosity and his charm. Sort of like I do, except I am not generous, I am selfish and spoiled and I have earned every curiosity they've ever guessed at and then some. They only think they know what sort of life I lead, what is real and what is imaginary. Sort of like believing in the spirit of Christmas versus believing that there is a Santa Claus.
Some people just don't know the difference.
I was not put here to educate them just like I know how to tame Caleb, but I can't pull it off. I've tried. I'm just not ready to die at his hand. I would die for others, not for him.
I will not go tonight to laud my current choices in front of them, I'm too fragile for their brand of neighbourly derision. I'll go tonight to listen to Ben sing Christmas carols and possibly a secular song (I don't know which. I think I know but he's not telling) in the sanctuary and I will go to listen to Sam and to represent the failure of God to drive me away just because I still think he has it in for me and I like to thumb my nose at him every chance I get in proof that he won't win either.
I'll go to spend extra time terrorizing and arousing my neighbours as I alternately accept hands to hold and arms to tuck under, just to keep them all confused. I'll go to support Sam as he prepares to soon tell his congregation that for the second time in three years they are losing their minister and I'll go because it's Christmas, pure and simple.
And I'll go because this dress is beautiful. I didn't buy it, it was a gift. One I can't return because it was custom-made for me. Just like my soul. You can't have either so take both items off your list and be grateful for what you do have.
It works for me.
“The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind”
~E. B. White